Top questions to ask potential roommates from Craigslist


Sometimes living with random roommates is easier than living with someone you know.

Whether it’s time for a new roommate because someone’s moving out or you’re just ready to start fresh, looking for roommates on Craigslist is an easy way to fill or find an available room. Of course, there are still two major concerns that make most people hesitate: Can you trust this person? And how do you make sure you can live well together?

Before you sign on the dotted line, here are a few questions to ask potential roommates.

What does a regular day look like for you?

Gone are the days when your randomly assigned college roommate would wake you up with their 7 a.m. shower karaoke. You’re an adult now, which means you can find out if that’s a daily part of your roommate’s routine—before you decide to live together. Use these roommate screening questions to find out what their daily habits are like:

  • Are they a night owl, or a morning person?
  • How clean and tidy do they like their apartment to be, and how do they like to split general household responsibilities, like paying rent or buying toilet paper?
  • Do they cook often, and do they have any dietary restrictions you need to know about?
  • Do they like to have friends over often? When their friends are invited over do they just hang out, or do they like to throw big parties?
  • Do they have a significant other? If they do, what are they like and how often will they be over? If they don’t, do they have expectations about late-night or overnight dates and guests?
  • Do they spend a lot of time at home, or is their schedule packed with outside activities?
  • When they’re at home, what do they like to do—decompress solo with Netflix or chat about their day?

It might feel a little weird to grill a stranger, but this person could make your home life a dream or a nightmare for the next year! These questions to ask potential roommates will give you a rough sense of how your lifestyles could mesh with each other’s, or potential sources of conflict that you can avoid early. Even if you like someone’s personality, you’re still going to be cranky if they refuse to wash their dishes.

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What are you looking for in a roommate?

To avoid roommate conflict, make sure you and your potential roommate want the same things out of your arrangement. If you’re brand new to the city and hope to hang out with your roommate a lot, it might not make sense to pair up with someone who works long hours. Does this person want to live with someone who will do the basics—pay bills on time, clean up after themselves, be respectful and friendly—and not much more? Do they envision you two brunching together, throwing parties, and taking trips, or maybe something in between the two? Were there things they liked about previous roommates, or things that didn’t gel with them personally?

Get a sense of their expectations ahead of time to avoid a personality clash down the line.

Do you have any references?

When finding a roommate on Craigslist, dig a little deeper into why the person you’re talking to is looking to change their living situation. Have they had a long-term roommate before this? How long did they live with the person, and why did they stop living together? Are they still friendly with their old roommates? These questions open the door for any complaints they might have about past roommates, and help you get a sense of whether they were pleasant for others to live with themselves.

Take that line of questioning one step further and ask for references from their previous roommates, whether they were living with random roommates or friends. You might also consider asking if you can find them on social media. It might seem a little extreme, but this person’s past roommates will speak best to what it’s really like to live with them and if there’s any history of roommate conflict. Plus, if you dip into their social media, you can at least get a sense of how they like to present themselves to the world, how they spend their personal time, and the kinds of people they spend time with. All of this will help you verify everything you’ve already discussed together.

Still a little nervous? You can cut your losses or run a basic background check for any major red flags.

What do you do for work?

In addition to being a great getting-to-know-you question to ask potential roommates, asking about someone’s employment can also give you a sense of how reliable they’ll be with money. Are they a freelancer? Do they have a steady stream of income and projects? Do they work a standard office job? Do they feel secure in the job and the industry? If they waffle on any of the big job questions, look into that a little bit. If they’re not totally on steady ground but have an emergency fund and a plan, no problem. It’ll feel uncomfortable to prod them about their financial situation, but remember, you’re on the hook if they miss their half of a joint payment.

Are you comfortable with signing a roommate agreement?

Ideally, you’ll want to have this person on some kind of lease or sublease with you, so that they are legally accountable for their portion of the rent and for following any building rules. Ask if this is something they’re comfortable with. If a potential roommate is iffy about signing on to anything officially, ask them why. Are they unable to commit to the full term of the lease? Are they nervous about some of the language in the paperwork? Assuming this person seems trustworthy, find out what their hang-up is before abandoning ship, and if there’s anything you can do to figure it out together.

You might also consider asking if they’re open to drafting and signing a roommate agreement with you—almost like a prenuptial agreement for roommates. This is a document that would clearly lay out the things you and your roommate separately bring into the apartment (e.g., couch, coffee table, toaster, vinyl collections, etc.) and how you’re going to split them up when you part ways.

Not every part of these agreements is legally binding, the way a lease is, but any financial agreements—i.e., how you decide to split utilities, rent, and so on—may be admissible in court.

It’s great if you and this person already trust each other, but you may reduce the chance of having roommate conflict if you have something in writing—especially on the off-chance that things become significantly less great in the future.
Not all is lost when finding a roommate on Craigslist. With these roommate screening questions, you can vet their lifestyles, habits, reliability, and general trustworthiness.